Bentley Continental GT: Love at First Drive

Once in awhile, a vehicle comes along that transcends its function as a mere mode of transportation; to call it simply a “car” seems an insult. Meet the Bentley Continental GT. It is a rolling art masterpiece, an outrageous, opulent indulgence that will never fall into the “need” column, but makes even the most casual observer covetous.

The Continental GT is a treat for the senses, from the feel and aroma of the supple leather surfaces to the low rumble of the engine as you push the button and it roars to life. To call the powertrain smooth would be an understatement of the highest degree. Its 567 horsepower comes via a 6-liter W12 twin turbocharged flex-fuel compliant engine (meaning it can run on gasoline, E85 bioethanol or any combination of the two), mated to a six-speed ZF transmission with Quickshift and steering-column-mounted gearshift paddles. Press the pedal and there is absolutely no sensation of the transmission shifting gears as it climbs from zero to 60 in just 4.4 seconds, on its way to a top speed of 198 mph.

Bentley interior 2Aesthetically, the Continental is superb. Walnut veneer on the console, hand-selected premium hide surfaces, deep pile carpet, bulls-eye air vents — the craftsmanship and attention to detail are unmatched, with quality materials throughout; even the floor-mat fasteners are stainless steel rather than plastic. It is quiet beyond compare at highway speeds, absorbing any road imperfection with nary a vibration into the cabin.

Of course, it comes equipped with all of the luxury and advanced technology one would expect: keyless entry and ignition, multi-zone climate control, speed-sensitive power steering, a full complement of safety features, an eight-inch high-resolution touch-screen infotainment system with iPod interface, lifetime subscription to Sirius radio, HDD for personal media storage, SD card reader and navigation. And the list goes on.

My test model did come with a significant number of options — many of them cosmetic — such as embroidered Bentley emblems on the headrests, dark-stained burr walnut rather than the unbleached version, deep-pile carpet overmats, wood and hide steering wheel, veneered door and rear quarter inserts, jewel fuel filter cap and the extreme silver exterior color. All succeeded in making an already beautiful vehicle even more stunning. The Naim for Bentley audio system was also an additional cost.

If there’s anything to quibble about with regard to the Continental, it’s that adaptive cruise control, rear-view camera and valet key came as part of a fairly pricey ($4140) option package. Seat ventilation and massage are also an additional cost. On the one hand, at this price point, it seems like those items should be included. On the other, if you’re willing to pay this much for a vehicle, maybe additional costs for certain niceties are beside the point.

This stunning coupe is the perfect fusion of performance, handcrafted luxury, contemporary design and modern technology. With a base price of $189,900, the Bentley Continental GT doesn’t come cheap; but nothing this good ever does.

Vital stats:
Power and Price:
567-horsepower W12 turbocharged flex-fuel compliant engine, starting at $189,900
Price as tested: $220,905 (includes $3000 gas-guzzler tax)
Transmission: 6-Speed ZF Automatic with Quickshift and steering-wheel mounted gearshift paddles
Fuel Economy (city/highway/combined): 12/19
Safety Ratings: Not yet rated

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